Town revitalization group mum on plans

MOUNT DESERT — Nearly three months after representatives of a group committed to the economic revitalization of Mount Desert said they were “in the process” of hiring an executive director and would open an office on Main Street in Northeast Harbor “in the immediate future,” apparently neither has occurred.

Leaders of the privately funded nonprofit group called the Mount Desert Economic Sustainability Initiative (ESI) have not responded to requests for comment on the status of those activities or on the development of their longer-range plans.

The ESI’s website was updated Jan. 19 for the first time since early November.

“We have been busy the past several weeks developing plans for the next phase of our work – revitalizing Northeast Harbor with sustainable economic development,” the website states. “We will update you in the coming weeks with the specifics of these plans once they are finalized.”

The group was formed in October by seasonal and year-round residents opposed to the town allowing cruise ships to bring passengers to Northeast Harbor. The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Nov. 7 to ban future cruise ship visits.

While its initial purpose was to rally opposition to cruise ships, ESI said its long-range goal was to establish programs to support existing businesses and attract new ones and to develop “affordable housing and mortgage assistance programs to help existing year-round residents and attract new families to our community.”

Katrina Carter, owner of Carter’s Real Estate in Northeast Harbor and an original supporter of the ESI, told the Islander in an email a few days prior to the selectmen’s Nov. 7 vote that the organization would be a “unique collaboration” between year-round and summer residents. She described them as people “who appreciate the magnitude of the economic challenges facing the community and are prepared to devote the necessary private capital to increase affordable housing, promote long-term sustainable economic development and attract new residents.”

She said at the time that the ESI was “in the process” of hiring an executive director.

In response to a request for comment on this and other ESI activities, Carter said in a Jan. 21 email to the Islander, “I am actively working with MDESI on a number of fronts, but I am not in a position to say anything more at this point in time.”

Attorney Michael Ross, who prepared and filed the ESI’s incorporation papers, said at the Nov. 7 selectmen’s meeting that the organization was “dedicated to revitalizing downtown, the schools, the whole community.”

“In the immediate future, the organization is going to be opening an office on Main Street,” he said.

Ross has not returned calls for comment on the status of the ESI’s plans for opening an office.

Marketing specialist Lelah Cole said at the Nov. 7 selectmen’s meeting that she had volunteered to create the ESI’s website. She has not responded to calls or email messages seeking comment on the status of the ESI’s activities.

The new message on the ESI’s website says the organization “will continue to monitor formal town government reaction to the November 7 selectmen vote in the months ahead.”

There is no explanation of the purpose of the monitoring or why the ESI feels it is needed.

Leaders of the ESI have not publicly identified themselves. But seasonal residents Mitchell Rales and Curt Strohacker are thought to be among them. Neither has returned calls from the Islander.


Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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